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Comedy Pros Don’t Write Prose

Jokes are meant to be said, not read.

Comedy Pros Have the Freedom One of the major errors made by beginner joke writers is they have a tendency to write flowery literate dialogue. It may read great, but when it coming out of the mouth of a comic it’s stiff, pretentious, and inauthentic. People in real life just don’t talk that way, unless they’re a Literature professor from Cambridge sporting a tweed jacket and an uneven mustache. To avoid this trap, here are two tips for creating realistic dialogue: Comedy Prose Use Grammatically Incorrect Language People don’t talk like they write, so you should write like they talk. Proper grammar and syntax have nothing to do with making a joke funny. In fact, correctly worded jokes seldom flow as well as jokes written with the f

The Silence of the Bombs

Whoever said “Silence is golden,” wasn’t a comedian.

Bombing is the number one fear associated with doing stand-up comedy. When your show isn’t getting any laughs, life stops being a movie and you’re thrust into the awareness that you’re really here in front of people. A flush of tingly heat spreads over your face, all you can hear is a deafening roar of silence. Then your internal self-talk starts screaming, “Why am I doing this to myself!” Your mouth feels as if it’s stuffed with cotton, your heart is thumping in your chest, and beads of perspiration snake down your face. You’re experiencing what comedians call flop sweat. If this description is enough to scare you away from wanting to be a comic, quit now because bombing is an inevitable aspect of being a funny person. Accept it and prepare yourself to deal with it resourcefully.

Comic Timing – Discussing the Undiscussable

Follow the followers.

I’d. . .timing. . .damn. . . I‘d like to. . .timing. . .oops. . . I’d like to discuss a subject that I don’t bel...timing?. . .lieve. . .shit. . . I’d like to discuss an aspect of comedy that I don’t believe can be meaningfully discussed - timing. Like love, happiness, and sushi, comic timing defies analysis. There have been many attempts to define it, but most were futile. Years ago in their book, How to Be a Comedian for Fun and Profit, Harry King and Lee Lauger wrote, “Timing is knowing when to stop speaking in the midst of a routine in order to allow thinking time for the audience to prepare itself for the laugh that is coming up.” Not much of a definition, but it is a great piece of advice. The only thing that’s certain about comic timing is that it’s esse

Fear of Going Blank on Stage

My point is…ummmmmm.

Going blank in the middle of a show or presentation is one of the most common fears of being in front of people. The number one reason people go blank on stage is the fear of going blank. From a teacher’s perspective, I believe the sooner you go blank on stage the better. You’ll handle it and survive. Once you realize that going blank on stage is no big deal, you can not only cope with going blank, but you’ll turn it into something funny. Here are some tips to help with the fear of going blank on stage: Be Honest The audience won’t mind if you forget for a moment, but they’ll want to know what’s going on. Don’t try to hide it. Admit it outright. Just say, “I’ve just forgotten everything I’ve ever known.” The audience will probably empathize with y

Use Jokes to Make a Point

Funny is as funny does.

I’ve heard many times the greatest jokes reveal some truth. I agree, yet there’s more to it if you want to convey a message. For decades, I’ve been using jokes and funny stories to make a point in life, classrooms, and business. Here’s how you can do the same. Collect Jokes and Joke Books I’ve got a huge collection of joke books. Many of them are out of print and must be found in used book stores in the humor section. Classic ones like Milton Berle’s Joke File to Judy Brown’s series of books quoting famous comedian. I set a joke book in my restroom and when I take a moment, I read a few jokes in passing. Just using this method, I’ve read dozens of joke books. The idea is to have joke books around to read at any spare time. You’ll need to read hundreds of jokes to find the ones whic

Secrets of Setup and Punch

Do your jokes snap like a rubber band?

To get an audience to think or to respond are two very different functions for creating a setup and punch. Most funny speakers never make this distinction when constructing setup and punch material and performing. I propose that for a joke to be most effective, a setup should cause the audience to think, and the punch should elicit from the audience an instant respond. To get the audience to think and then respond is much like someone aiming a rubber band at someone’s arm. This causes the person being aimed at to think about the impending result, which creates tension. When the rubber band is released, the impact causes an instant response. Just like a good setup and punch. With one-liners, the function of the setup is to get the audience to think. For instance, when the

The Ultimate Comedy Secret to Success

Tag it or bag it.

One of the most important and powerful comedy secret in a comedian’s arsenal to get laughs is the Tag. A tag is punch after a punch without a new setup. For instance this Jerry Seinfeld joke: Setup: “Bozo the Clown. Do we really need ‘the Clown’? Are we going to confuse him with…” Punch: “Bozo the Tax Attorney?” Tag1: “Bozo the Pope?” Notice how Seinfeld created a clear Setup and Punch, and then added another Punch that didn’t require a new Setup. By not using a new Setup, he was able to get two laughs off the original Setup. This is how Tags work. This comedy secret doesn’t have to stop there. When doing story telling comedy, the story is the through line of the routine, but it can be constructed with a Setup, Punch,

Teaching Comedy Technique to Anyone

Can everyone really learn to be funnier?

I’m constantly asked, “How do you teach comedy?”  The answer to that would be a novella. So, I’ll just focus on one aspect of my process for teaching comedy technique as a series of skills. That’s right…skills. Skills allow students to practice and apply any comedy technique to their own sense of humor. This keeps the teacher’s sense of humor out of the process and gives tools to the students to develop their individual comic voice. Over the last thirty-five years, I’ve developed a process for identifying and teaching the comedy techniques used by great comedy writers and professional funny people. My process is based on these three steps. Identify the Comedy Technique Create a Practicable Exe

Steal Comedy Techniques, Not Jokes

Where are the fundamentals of comedy?

When I first got into teaching stand-up comedy, I quickly realized there were no organized fundamentals of comedy for teaching joke writing and being funny. Every other field had established fundamentals and even different schools of thought about them. For instance, sports, acting, cooking, writing, dancing, art, and music could be learned through mastering the fundamental skills of its corresponding field. Where were the fundamentals of comedy for joke writing and being funny in front of an audience? At the time, there were several books which offered some help. They gave advice or examples of what the author did to be funny, but nothing was presenting a clear unified series of the fundamentals for comedy. I wondered if they even existed.  Yet, I’d watch comedians get funnier year afte

3 Comedy Tips to Avoid Open Mic Hell

Go from a night of horror to just a nightmare.

Open mics are one the most important and distressing periods all fledgling comedians go through. It’s important because comedians need to learn to get over their fear of bombing, deal with the lights, handle being ignored, face abject failure, cope with their anger, all in the quest to learn to be funny. If that didn’t discourage you, this will. Open mics are equally distressing. The comics running them often don’t care about anything, but their own stage time. They’re held in loud bars with drunken hecklers or in empty coffee houses. The audience is usually other comics working on their material while waiting to go up. There’s no front row because the comics sit as far from the stage as they can. And the regular customers are having loud personal conversations without any regard for the performers. Yet, tho

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